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Robert Jackson Jr. - Minister-in-training works with youth

April 21, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Working at a boot camp at Cornell Abraxas Youth Center in South Mountain, Pa., was an eye-opener for Robert Jackson Jr., who said he was shocked at some of the delinquent acts committed by young boys who were detained there.

What didn't surprise him was that many of those boys came from broken families and didn't have positive role models.

"When you don't have a good family background, you stray away from doing the right thing, period," he said.

Jackson, 25, had just moved to Chambersburg from Delaware when he took the job at the youth facility. He made a vow that when he got settled in at his new home, he would sign up to become a "big brother" through Big Brothers Big Sisters, a mentoring program that he benefited from as a youngster.

"When I was young, I said I wanted to be a part of (that organization) to help someone else," he said.

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For more than a year, Jackson has been spending time with a 13-year-old boy at least once a month. They occasionally go to the movies, bowl or head to the YMCA to play basketball.

Jackson, an account executive at First Data, in January received a YMCA Black Achievers award, for which First Data nominated him.

He coaches T-ball for a Chambersburg Little League team on which the oldest of his two sons, Robert Jackson III, plays.

The son of a pastor, Jackson said he came to Chambersburg in 2003 after his friend from Delaware, the Rev. Marcus Briddell, became pastor at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Chambersburg.

Jackson now is the young adult choir director and a minister-in-training at that church. Briddell since has become pastor at a church in Delaware.

The Rev. Dr. Rondo Nel of St. James said, "He puts on a full-forth effort on whatever the Lord has called him to do."

He said that when he needed help passing out fliers in the community, Jackson was at the meeting spot 30 minutes early and helped distribute them in the rain.

"I just find him an amazing young man," Nel said.

The church's custodian was in the hospital over the winter and "When the time came to clean the church, nobody asked him, but (Jackson) was there. He's just that kind of person," Nel said.

He said he has been training Jackson to become a minister.

"He most assuredly is serious about the call," he said. "Any assignments you give to him, he's on top of it."

Jackson expects to get his bachelor's degree from Andersonville Theological Seminary in May. He takes online courses from the school, which is based in Georgia, and hopes to become a pastor.

He already preaches at the church whenever he is asked, teaches Sunday school and plays drums for the church. Jackson eventually hopes to get his master of divinity degree.

For more than a year, Jackson has been a member of the Franklin County Library Board of Directors.

Jackson said his family and his wife, Moninya, put up with his busy schedule. He said he makes sure to make time for his family, too.

"It's important to make a difference as long as everyone can see they can make it just like you're making it," Jackson said.




Q&A

Name - Robert Jackson Jr.

Address - Chambersburg, Pa.

Date of birth - Dec. 26, 1980

Occupation - First Data account executive

Most notable achievement - Graduating from Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown, Del.

Your proudest moment - The births of his two sons, Robert Jackson III and Malachi Jackson.

Who is the person you most admire and why? - His mother because she's a strong-willed person and she basically - once my father passed - raised me by herself. She has a lot of character and she's a Christian woman.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave it to you? - You never get to the top by stepping on others. He couldn't remember who told him that.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve? - He would like to get his master of divinity degree.

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